(That’s Dave’s sister in the background.)
The lovely Betty Beguiles recently begged the question: “Was it love at first sight?” Considering I met my husband when I was 15 and went on to date several other guys including one who I thought was the one, the answer is an unequivocal no.
Ever the hopeless romantic, I’ve really enjoyed others’ love stories and have decided to share my own personal “happily ever after” tale.
I write a lot about my kids in this space, but I don’t say nearly as much about my husband. My lack of Dave anecdotes is mainly due to the fact that he’s really not in to being in the spotlight. And he doesn’t boycott pooping on the potty or push my buttons as much as 3-year-olds do, so he’s really kind of boring to talk about. When he does push my buttons, I keep it to myself. I’ve never wanted to be one of those wives who vents about her husband all of the time. I’d rather build him and our marriage up than break it down. This doesn’t mean we don’t have our share of relationship hurdles. The fact that he is a laid-back, sanguine with a touch of melancholic, I-don’t-need-any-words-of-affirmation-MAN, and I’m a hyper, type A, obsessive melancholic with some sanguine and choleric tendencies who is always looking for the next narcotic hit of delight from words of affirmation WOMEN translates to occasional misunderstandings. Then there’s the mixed marriage thing. I don’t talk about this much either. Not here. Not even with good friends. But I talk about it in spiritual direction and with God all of the time.
My husband is private. My marriage is private. But I have my husband’s blessing to sometimes talk about things and to share our love story. So here goes:
My dearly beloved and I met on our high school mock trial team, but this wasn’t just any team. We ended up winning the national title. We were so cool. Dave was an all-star attorney. I was a sobbing witness, begging the jury to spare the life of my nephew who was facing the death penalty. Court TV actually interviewed me after we won the title and I still get embarrassed when I think of my blond, bubbly self telling my interviewee that crying during the trial was good practice because I quote, “I want to go to Hollywood and be an actress someday.” Geez.
Sadly, none of our winning team members ever became attorneys and I obviously didn’t make it in Tinseltown (although I briefly gave acting a shot). In fact, I was the only one who ever even went to law school – for a little over month! Our wonderful mock trial sponsor was an amazing teacher (she’s retired now). She actually came to our wedding, and she’s even met our daughters.
Although we met in high school and even went on a few very casual dates, we amicably parted ways until we were reunited after we’d both graduated from college. (He went to school up North; I stayed closer to home.) Dave will tell you I dumped him for a football player. I’m not sure what happened, but I do remember going on one date with a beefy, boring jock shortly after Dave. I was only 16, so cut me some slack. I also remember Dave and my first date as teenagers quite well.
Always the romantic, Dave took me to see Die Hard with a Vengeance and then to the roller rink for some serious skating. (I’m a klutz on wheels and sometimes on feet too, but I still tease him about the finesse he demonstrated under the pulsating lights.) On the way home, the Oldsmobile Dave had borrowed from his dad abruptly lost electrical power, including power steering. We fortunately were only yards away from my home and Dave used all his pubescent might to turn the boat into my 300-plus foot driveway and we were able to coast down to the turnaround. A tow truck came to pick up the car the next day. Poor Dave. I imagine he was pretty mortified. Amazingly, when my mom was putting together a wedding scrapbook for us, Dave’s mom gave her the ticket stub for Die Hard. I tease him and say he never quite got over me (I’m actually his only girlfriend, although he dated a few girls casually in college). He, in turn, teases me saying that he also kept the white polo shirt he wore on the high school date to remember me by because he could never wear it again since it had a big brown smear of my foundation on it (I wore way too much makeup in my early high school days; I looked like a blond Bozo.).
Fast forward five years and we were reunited by way of a mutual friend (also a mock trial team alum). I was living at home, freelance writing, and working at a posh Atlanta firm gearing up for law school; Dave was crashing at his parents’ house as well while working as a car salesman to save some money before embarking on his medical training. We hung out as friends for quite awhile. I knew he was starting to like me, and I was definitely falling for him, but I was afraid. A little over a year prior, I had endured a very bad breakup that turned me into a weepy mess and made me swear off guys for a long time. I was also confused because Dave wasn’t Catholic, and I’d assumed I’d marry someone who was. I was afraid this big dichotomy would be difficult to handle (and honestly, sometimes it is just like any big difference between a man and woman who marry is. Guy who smashed my heart into smithereens was Catholic, by the way. We met at Mass, in fact). I wasn’t sure if there was a point to even start dating him.
When he came to pick me up at my parents’ house for the first time, I was mortified because my dad opened the door and said right away, “My, how you’ve grown up.” Dave was a scrawny, lanky but cute teenage boy. He was now a handsome, muscled man. I remember telling myself this is why you didn’t move back home after college. Ah well.
It was also my dad who told me that I needed to open my eyes and see what a great man God had sent me. This surprised me because he’d always wanted me to end up with a Catholic man as well. I took his advice and took a chance, and soon Dave and I were dating and falling in love. We ended up dating for about a year before we got engaged and were married six months after he popped the question at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. It was very, very romantic. He kidnapped me from work and we drove there and had an amazing dinner before walking around the breathtaking grounds. But more about that in a minute…
Our first “real” date the second go-around was to Dante’s Down the Hatch, a great fondue restaurant and jazz club located in the heart of Buckhead in Atlanta.
It took us awhile to kiss for the first time – like after six weeks of dating. (We never kissed in high school.) We stood beneath a starry sky in the pale moonlight – in his parents’ driveway. He leaned down. I tilted my face upward and…I kissed his chin. I think he may have kissed my nose. That’s what happens when you’re nervous and the object of your affection is almost a foot taller than you.
Now back to our engagement story. We talked over a delicious meal. I had a stuffed portobello mushroom that was topped with this buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, crunchy goodness. Even my meat-loving husband thought it was delicious, but he liked his lobster more. It was a long, drawn-out culinary experience that ended with the waiter placing a single long-stemmed red rose before me. A very memorable meal, indeed.
Following dinner, Dave and I walked around the Grove Park grounds. Christmas decorations were already in place and out of the blue, Dave commented on some “cute skating bears,” and I knew something was up. This is not something that he’d normally notice, let alone acknowledge. Next thing I knew he was on one knee asking me to marry him. I started crying and said yes. (He’d asked my dad for my hand prior to proposing.)
The engagement was a magical – and challenging – time. As I prepared for the Sacrament of Marriage, I once again began to question our faith differences. When we were at a weekend pre-Cana retreat, the leaders told us that we’d likely question whether we should be marrying the person beside us. They said this was a sign we were taking marriage seriously. I did question it and almost broke off the engagement (very few people knew about this). I cried and cried, and then I decided I needed to bring my confusion and sorrow before the Lord. There before the Blessed Sacrament for the first and only time in my life I clearly heard His voice and this is what He said, “Love him.”
Simple and difficult as that: Love him.
Recently, I was discussing how I was really having trouble with control issues – as in wanting to be God and have control over everything. I also lamented about how angry and helpless I sometimes felt about my mixed marriage even though everything was great except for the lack of unity of faith. I told the person listening to me about how I was confused since I do know that God had told me to love him and I’d been obedient, so why did I feel so alone? Why couldn’t I make Dave fall in love with my faith? Why did I feel distant from God sometimes? Then this wise person I was consulting said this: “Did you ever stop to consider that marrying Dave and having something as big as this out of your control was part of God’s plan to help you relinquish control? Give yourself permission to be sad and to feel lonely sometimes, but then do as you were told and just love him, no questions asked, no theological debates to win.”
Wise counsel, huh?
On May 25, 2002 at the Catholic Church I grew up in I made the decision and the promise to love him at a beautiful Mass celebration that was followed by a big party. Every day I make the same decision. He does, too.
After my heart-splitting breakup in college, I was convinced that no one, other than God and my parents, would ever love me unconditionally. Then I met Dave. He loves and always has loved me despite my human wrongs and failures.
At first, I had a hard time believing and then accepting that he really did love me. I felt unlovable at times and I still do. There are certainly days when I don’t deserve to be loved, but he chooses to love me anyway. Dave has taught me through his actions, his words, and his putting our marriage and our family above everything else that love isn’t a feeling. It’s not about reading Shakespearean sonnets or love letters with your head in the clouds. It’s many, many times a decision, and from the moment Dave first said, “I’m falling in love with you,” he made the decision to love me for better or for worse, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, when I’m grumpy from a lack of sleep, or needy because I miss him, or worried about money, or I’m being selfish and not putting his needs above my own, or I vent to him and ramble on and on instead of listening to him first, or I’m frazzled trying to get the girls ready for Mass and am ironically not acting Christian at all, or I serve four vegetarian meals in one week instead of giving the poor carnivorous man some meat on the table. His love is not conditional. It’s always there even when he’s chained to the hospital reading room and feels very far away, I am and very much loved.
Love at first sight? Nope. But my husband is most definitely the love of my life.